Should You Book Through Chase Ultimate Rewards Portal or Transfer Points
We recently published “Chase Ultimate Rewards Points Guide: Earning, Redeeming and Program Details for Sapphire, Freedom and Ink Brands.” A lot of the feedback and questions we got from readers involved travel redemptions, more specifically, which was the best option and how to get the maximum value out of your points.
We thought it would be helpful to give you some guidance on how to make the best decision when booking travel with Ultimate Rewards. Especially since some of the Chase Ultimate Rewards Cards are currently offering huge sign-up bonuses equal to their all time best offers including the Chase Ink Business Cash Credit Card. The Ink Business Preferred card is also offering a whopping 80,000 Ultimate Rewards points.
Related: Guide: Which Chase Ink Card is Best for You?
CLICK HERE to compare this card with other business cards
Ultimate Rewards Transfer Partner List
- Airline Transfer Partners
- British Airway Executive Club
Flying Blue AIR FRANCE KLM
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
Aer Lingus AerClub
- British Airway Executive Club
- Hotel Transfer Partners
- World of Hyatt
IHG Rewards Club
The Ritz-Carlton Rewards
- World of Hyatt
Step by Step Decision Making Process
- Do a generic search for the flight or hotel you are interested in. I always start with Google Flights or a 3rd party OTA like expedia to get a good idea of the cash price of a ticket or night and narrow down the options that will work best for my particular trip.
- Check Travel Portal Prices to make sure they’re roughly equivalent
- Look Up Award Prices
- Compare number of miles required for each option and the factors below.
Additional Factors to Consider
Now that we have the basic steps, we have to look at the factors that will affect your decision. I think the factors are different depending on whether you are booking a hotel stay or an airline ticket, so we’ll examine them in turn.
Booking Airfare: Consider the Following
Flights booked through the travel portal are generally considered revenue flights and are thus eligible to earn miles and elite credit with the airline. The beauty about booking through the portal is that not only will you pay a lesser amount in points, but you will also earn miles on the flight.
When booking through rewards travel portals, you do not need to worry about availability of award space. Also, the UR portal generally has all the available airlines you’d find in a generic search, thus you are not limited to transfer partners as you would be if you transferred points.
If you have certain cards, you may be able to snag a killer deal in relation to the actual cash price of the flight. For example, if you have a Ink Business Preferred, your Ultimate Rewards Points are worth 1.25 cents each when used to book travel through the UR Portal. The Chase Sapphire Reserve gives you 1.5. For clarity, let’s look at an in depth example considering each option.
I am traveling to Las Vegas from New York in June. I decided to look at Business class flights on United Airlines on Friday, June 22.
Option 1– Transferring Points to Airline to Book Award Ticket
- I see that the cheapest award ticket available via United is 47.5k Miles.
Option 2– Booking Through Travel Portal (the value of this option is entirely contingent upon which UR Credit cards I hold.) The UR Portal has the flight for 46,800 points
- Chase Sapphire Preferred and Ink Business Preferred give you 1.25 cents for each point, so to figure the total number of required points to book this ticket, you’d divide 46,800 by 1.25 = 37,440
- Chase Sapphire Reserve give you 1.5 cents for each point, so to figure the total number of required points to book this ticket, you’d divide 46,800 by 1.5 = 31,200
Related: Chase Sapphire Preferred or Chase Sapphire Reserve? Detailed Comparison
Now, let’s throw one more curveball into the mix. United’s Saver Awards (if one is available) for the same flight is only 25k. This much lower saver award price would certainly make you reconsider booking through the travel portal. If you have the CSP, probably a no-brainer, save the extra points. However, with the reserve card, you’re only spending an extra 6,200 points and you’ll probably earn about 3500 United miles. If you were chasing United status or have a better use for your Chase Ultimate Rewards, then it certainly would make sense to book through the portal instead of transferring you points to United.
Click Here to compare these and other travel rewards credit cards
Booking a Hotel Stay? A Few Things to Consider
Do you have elite status with a particular brand? If so, are you hoping to keep it after this year?
- Most of the time, hotels booked through the travel portal do not earn stay credits and do not entitle you to your elite benefits. In contrast, most hotel loyalty programs award elite stay credit and benefits on award nights.
- Hotels brands are always running promotions and sometimes they can make for awesome deals including free nights, bonus points or stay perks like resort credits and free breakfast. Generally to take advantage of these promos and offers you have to book through a direct channel.
Award Charts Protect Against Peak Pricing
- If you’re travelling during peak season, you may be better off transferring hotel points than paying the cash rate for a few reasons. First, you can essentially lock in a reasonable price because most programs have set award prices (Hotel Award Charts). Additionally, you’ll receive a lot more value from your points than you would on regularly priced nights.
- Hyatt is a favorite for points transfers because their points are very valuable and can be redeemed for high end properties at huge values.
At times, rates can be cheaper when booking through the credit card travel portals as they often run promos and sales. Sometimes other perks are included, like free breakfast or internet. If you’re simply looking for the best rate and not chasing status, this would be a good time to book through the portal.
The decision to book through the Ultimate Rewards Portal or transfer to partners is a static one that will vary depending on many factors. The considerations and value will change with each scenario and hopefully now you have a framework to apply to your decision making process. For more posts discussing transfer partners and Ultimate Reward’s Portal bookings, check out this post. Also, “How to Book it: Award Ticket Redemption Process.”
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I have the Chase Sapphire Reserve card and I love that I can book any flight or any hotel (virtually) with points. Even all-inclusive hotels in Mexico that would never be available with points from any program. Also, very convenient when you fly a popular route on AA that would never had Saaver availability. Good post!
Good post, Bethany; much to consider carefully, esp. on the flight side of things. I too am a big fan of CUR…. Yet on the hotels side of things, one other huge question/warning/factor to consider…. In my use of CUR for booking hotels over the past several months, I’ve been noticing considerable mark-ups AFTER selecting a deal…. that is, between where the CUR system told me what the price would be in CUR points — and then the final price after vaguely defined points were added to cover taxes …. and fees. (something you often don’t have to pay if you’re reserving directly with the hotel chain — esp. Hyatt & IHG — and paying fully with chain currency/points)
There’s much, much more work to be done on this…. what I was noticing, and I called Chase in fury about it, is that they seem to be tacking (sometimes, but not always) on hidden booking fees of some type — far, far in excess of the points that ought to have been required to cover the taxes and hotel fees that would be charged if you were reserving outside of CUR….. AFAIK, Chase UR is not admitting to tacking on hidden booking fees…. yet folks should test this out for themselves — watch for it.